(Updates with Tillerson chosen, Perry expected at energy)
By Doina Chiacu and Gina Cherelus
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK Dec 12 Exxon Mobil Chief
Executive Rex Tillerson will be President-elect Donald Trump's
choice as secretary of state, a source familiar with the matter
said on Monday, but he could face a struggle getting confirmed
by U.S. senators concerned about his close ties to Russia.
Trump will announce his pick as secretary of state on
Tuesday morning, and the source said it would be Tillerson.
Trump called Republican Mitt Romney, another candidate for the
top diplomatic job, to tell him he would not get it.
Lawmakers from both major parties have raised questions
about Tillerson and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who has
been mentioned as a possible No. 2 State Department official and
has voiced hawkish views on Iraq and Iran.
In a separate development, Trump is expected to pick former
Texas Governor Rick Perry as his nominee for energy secretary,
the source said. Perry met Trump on Monday at Trump Tower in New
Republicans and Democrats said Tillerson, who is also
president of Exxon Mobil Corp, would be asked about his
ties to Russia, having met President Vladimir Putin several
times. He won fresh praise from Moscow on Monday.
In 2013, Putin bestowed a Russian state honor, the Order of
Friendship, on Tillerson, citing his work "strengthening
cooperation in the energy sector."
Senator John McCain, a leading foreign policy voice and 2008
Republican candidate for president, told Reuters in an
interview: "I have concerns. It's very well known that he has a
very close relationship with Vladimir Putin."
Calling Putin "a KGB agent who is bent on restoring the
Russian Empire," McCain said he would await confirmation
hearings if Tillerson is nominated before making a judgment on
Another Republican, Senator Marco Rubio, who serves on the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee that would review a Tillerson
nomination, has voiced similar worries.
Renewed allegations of Russian hackers meddling in the Nov.
8 election, coupled with Trump's stated admiration of Putin,
have stoked concern. Washington is at odds with Moscow over a
range of issues that include Syria, Ukraine and NATO's presence
in Eastern Europe.
Trump, a Republican, is due to succeed Democratic President
Barack Obama on Jan. 20. During Trump's presidential campaign,
Democrats and longtime government officials voiced alarm when
Trump repeatedly praised Putin.
BOLTON ALSO A CONCERN
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he
was optimistic Trump's nominees would be confirmed by the
Senate, but he declined to comment on any future nominees such
McConnell called all of Trump's choices so far "pretty
Senator Charles Schumer, the incoming Senate Democratic
leader, told CBS "This Morning" that "the bottom line is, every
one of these nominees, particularly a guy like Tillerson, needs
a thorough, thorough hearing."
"Talks about his closeness with Putin will come forward,"
Bolton has also generated bipartisan concern. On Sunday,
Republican Senator Rand Paul said he would work to stop Bolton
from being confirmed to any Trump administration post.
"His worldview is naive," Paul said on ABC's "This
Week." "He still believes in regime change. He's still a big
cheerleader for the Iraq war. He's promoted a nuclear attack by
Israel on Iran. He wants to do regime change in Iran."
In 2005, then-President George W. Bush installed Bolton as
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in a temporary "recess
appointment" that sidestepped U.S. Senate confirmation. He took
that step after Democrats used procedural rules in place at the
time to block the nomination.
Bolton left the job at the end of 2006 when the temporary
appointment was ending.
Senate rules have since changed, making it harder for a
minority of senators to stop judicial and executive branch
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Matt Spetalnick and
Jonathan Landay in Washington and Gina Cherelus in New York;
Writing by Richard Cowan and John Whitesides; Editing by
Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)